Creative Commons (also known as CC) is a website devoted to people who want to share their work freely with other internet users. Their copyright licenses are free to the public, and it can be used for any new upstarts hoping to share their music, books, or any type of media with a large audience. The best part, aside from it being free, is that it is completely legal!
Creative Commons is different than traditional copyright because a traditional copyright typically claims that “All Rights [Are] Reserved” whereas a Creative Commons copyright can include however much (or little) the owner of the piece would like to take credit for. This can be in different levels, down to a CCo (pronounced “cee-cee-zero”) copyright, which is a “no-rights reserved”-type of deal where the owner claims no rights to the piece and allows all to use the piece freely. This is as close to a public domain as one can get with their work, and Creative Commons is a great tool to help people get their media out to the public.
Photo Credits: Sterin.genini on Flickr. CC. Some Rights Reserved
(Here is blog about where to legally get free web graphics--Creative Commons gets an honorary mention.)
I think Creative Commons can be the beginning of a very long and very happy friendship between users and independent content producers. It helps both sides out because, usually, downloading music or books raise issues in a person's mind about whether they are breaking any sort of copyright laws and whether they are pirating. Creative Commons assures protection from any such worries and explains how it is completely legal as well as free. (With other file-sharing sites, it is sometimes hard to tell whether the entertainment or documents you are loading is illegal or not. In this case, that shouldn't be a problem.)
From the point of the independent content producers, Creative Commons is a good way to gain publicity as well as fans. The more people that have access to a demo of a song, for example, the more likely word will spread about how well the song sounds. The fanbase can increase exponentially and sharing becomes MUCH easier between person-to-person and band-to-audience. This is excellent news for all those publicists out there!
There are minor setbacks to being able to share content so freely-- such as the need for funds when royalties are not enough to keep the content coming in. (See NY Times article "Taking Sides in the Digital Revolution, Where Copyright Is the First Casualty" ) For example, giving up all or partial rights to a book or song can translate to less income for the content producers, but, as the old adage goes, one must spend money to make money. The free publicity hopefully makes up for the loss in royalties.
Many artists have come up with a way around such a problem anyways. Take, for example, Josh Woodward. He is a Creative Commons musician who is fine with the public use of his work--so long as he gets credit for his pieces. In this way, the publicity stays alive for the producer and the content stays free for the "consumer". It is very much of a win-win situation.
(Creative Commons site)
(NY Times article on some positives and negatives of Creative Commons)
(Josh Woodward's site)